Town Won’t Reveal Route 13 Monthly Sewer Rates

Cape Charles Wave

September 3, 2013

Two public meetings are scheduled this month to provide information about plans for mandatory sewer hookups and a nearly doubling of County land taxes in an area along Route 13 north and south of the Cape Charles traffic light and along a portion of South Bayside Road. But property owners’ burning question won’t be answered at the meeting. That is: How much will my sewer bill be?

Cape Charles residents pay a monthly charge of $60.85 for up to 2,000 gallons of sewage treatment. They also pay a separate charge for water, but at this stage only sewerage is proposed for Route 13 area customers.

The Town’s water consultant and assistant town manager, Bob Panek, has been coy about how much County customers might have to pay. “I have no idea what the rate would be,” Panek told the Cape Charles Business Association July 23.

Panek is also chairman of the Public Service Authority, the County entity that is proposing sewerage on the highway. The Town and the PSA are supposed to negotiate a sewer rate. Since Panek cannot negotiate with himself, he has turned over the calculation of a rate structure to other Town employees.

Panek told the Business Association that doing a rate analysis would be “about a day’s work.” But his estimate was optimistic. Town Council had scheduled a September 5 work session to review a proposed rate structure, but last week the work session was postponed until September 25. It seems that, without Panek’s involvement, the financial analysis will require about a month instead of about a day to accomplish.


In the meantime, Northampton County Supervisors have already set two public meetings about the sewer service. An “informal public information meeting” is planned for 7 p.m. Monday, September 16, at the Cheriton Fire House. A week later, a formal public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, September 23, in the County Administration Building board room.

A County resident who follows the sewer issue told the Wave that postponing Town Council’s work session until two days after the County public hearing appears to be a ploy by the Town to prevent public comment on a controversial subject.

Town ratepayers are likely to be up in arms if County sewer rates are lower than in town – especially since Panek does not plan to charge new County users the $7,475 sewer hookup fee paid by Town customers.

But potential County ratepayers are liable to be as unhappy as Town customers if they face a $60 minimum monthly fee. And the fee could be even higher: Council member Joan Natali suggested May 9 that the Town “could make a profit” on sewer service to the County.

As reported August 23 in the Wave, Cape Charles Business Association President George Proto has requested Mayor Dora Sullivan to put the PSA sewer plans “on hold,” due to “a potential long-term downside for the town.” In a seven-sentence response, the mayor did not discuss any of Proto’s concerns, instead inviting him to attend the (now postponed) September 5 Council work session. The mayor made it clear that Proto would not be allowed to speak at the meeting: “There will not be a public comment period for this work session,” she wrote.



3 Responses to “Town Won’t Reveal Route 13 Monthly Sewer Rates”

  1. Betsy Mapp on September 3rd, 2013 9:17 am

    Isn’t it a conflict of interest for a paid assistant town manager to also be the lead agent in the PSA’s efforts? This seems very improper. He has divided loyalties in this instance because he is serving two “masters.” Also, chances are businesses will be charged at a different rate than residences, usually higher.

  2. David Boyd on September 3rd, 2013 12:15 pm

    I believe you hit the nail on the head. Perhaps some lawyers should look into this.

  3. Deborah Bender on September 4th, 2013 8:13 am

    So let me get this straight — the town is NOT having the work session before the PSA public meeting? Well, no surprise there. Of course they don’t want to discuss anything with the business owners. The town is so bent on getting this pipe to the highway, they obviously could care less about the business owners that could be PUT OUT OF BUSINESS. Again the town is going against their own comprehensive plan! The business owners need to stand up and fight this pipe! There is nothing in it for anyone in business in Cape Charles. And there is nothing in it for the business owners in the proposed new tax district!

    Come out and fight! September 16 at the Cheriton firehall is the first of two meetings where people can go up to the podium and fight this plan that could kill your business!